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Dignity, justice: direct democracy

Zodwa Nsibande, from a post on South Africa’s Abahlali baseMjondolo, a shack dwellers movement:

In our days being involved in the struggle for change is no longer as popular as it was before simply because many people believe that because we had got rid of the oppressive government everything is now ok. But freedom was never just a case of replacing a white government with a black government. It was a case of building a different kind of society – a society that put human beings at the centre, a society in which there would be decent homes, decent work, decent schools and decent health care for everyone. It was a case of building a participatory democracy in which everyone’s voice and life would count the same irregardless of whether they were a woman or a man, black or white, gay or straight or poor or rich. In fact it was a case of building a society where poverty would be ended.

Those who think that the time of struggle is over are forgetting that we are still living under a kind of apartheid but that in this apartheid the difference is the people are divided by class. The gap between those who have and those who don’t have is huge and it is getting worse. Those who say that we must be patient are forgetting that things are getting worse for the poor and not better.

And here is a look at Spain’s days of protests in May of 2011.

By Siân Ruddick:

Mass demonstrations and protest camps have mushroomed across Spain as the young and the unemployed say “enough”. As many as 40 percent of Spain’s 4.5 million unemployed are under 25.

The economic crisis has brought further austerity and attacks on workers and the poor. But now the people are fighting back.

Unemployment runs at 21% in the country, 45% for those who are 18 to 25 years old.

Sokari Ekine writes about Uganda and Africa:

Uprisings continue across the continent, with Uganda being the latest country where citizens have taken to the streets in protest against rising food and energy prices.

[…]The protests have met with a violent response from the government of Yoweri Museveni, with police firing live bullets at crowds, beatings and mass arrests.

[…]Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah in the Southern Africa FBP likens Museveni to Egypt’s Mubarak with the same mindset and the same relationship with the West:

‘Typical of a mindset of a dictator, President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, does not see the connection between the uprisings and his governing style. Instead his delusional mentality makes him see how indispensable he is to Uganda. Narcissistic is what he is, just like all dictators and autocratic leaders, and he does not care about what the Ugandan citizens think or want.’

Protest in Uganda

In Egypt, here’s a peek at May 20, Tahrir Square:

Hossam el-Hamalway in an interview:

The revolution was against the Mubarak regime but all we’ve managed to do so far is remove Mubarak himself. The ones running the country right now are Mubarak’s generals, who were the backbone of his dictatorship from day one.

[…]Attempts are already under way by middle-class activists to place limits on this revolution and ensure it remains only within the realm of formal political institutions.

[…]But the main part of any revolution has to be socio-economic emancipation for the citizens of a country; if you want to eliminate corruption or stop vote-buying then you have to give people decent salaries, make them aware of their rights and not leave them in dire economic need. A middle-class activist can return to his executive job after they think the revolution is over, but a public transport worker who has spent 20 years in service and is getting paid only 189 Egyptian pounds a month – you can’t ask this guy to go back to work and tell his starving kids at home that everything will be sorted out once we have a civilian government in the future.So this is phase two of the revolution, the phase of socio-economic change. What we need to do now is take Tahrir to the factories, the universities, the workplaces. In every single institution in this country there is a mini-Mubarak who needs to be overthrown. In every institution there are figures from the old state security regime who need to be overthrown. These guys are the counter-revolution.

And in Greece, according to Matthaois Tsimitakis:

The village of Keratea is a conservative and peaceful place, about an hour’s drive from Athens. When, a few months ago, the central government decided without consultation to create a garbage landfill destroying antiquities, polluting the environment and defying the European Commission’s rejection of the plan as unsustainable, Keratea erupted into violent confrontation with the police.

[…]The Keratea resistance is part of a series of low or higher intensity confrontations with the government, its preferred contractors and the repressive apparatus of state brought in to protect the corporations. Such local movements have spread all over the country for some time, defending public spaces against privatization (this has happened repeatedly in Athens where the last remaining green spots are consistently given over to construction companies), natural resources (the Canadian gold mining corporation TVX is facing a strong resistance movement in the North of the country), or protesting against the repeated corruption scandals.

Palestinian refugees marched to commemorate Nakba on May 15, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands from their homes in today’s occupied Palestine and Israel.

Karma Nabulsi has this to say:

It was the moment for which we had all been holding our breath for decades – for 63 years to be precise. Palestinians everywhere watched the unfolding scene transfixed and awed. The camera followed the movements of a small group of people advancing from the mass of protesters. They were carefully making their way down a hill towards the high fence that closed off the mined field separating Syria from its own occupied territory of the Golan that borders historic Palestine, now Israel.

They were mostly young Palestinians, drawn from the 470,000-plus refugee community in Syria: from Yarmouk refugee camp inside Damascus, from Khan el-Sheikh camp outside it, from Deraa and Homs refugee camps in the south, from Palestinian gatherings all over the country.

Slowly, and in spite of the shouted warnings from the villagers from Majdal Shams about the lethal landmines installed by the Israeli military right up to the fence, these remarkable ordinary young people – Palestinian refugees – began to both climb and push at the fence. We were going home.

It was a profoundly revolutionary moment, for these hundreds of young people entering Majdal Shams last Sunday made public the private heart of every Palestinian citizen, who has lived each day since 1948 in the emergency crisis of a catastrophe. Waiting, and struggling, and organising for only two things: liberation and return.

[…]On Sunday, this moment of return was enacted simultaneously in Haifa and among Palestinians displaced inside Israel, on the borders of Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Gaza, in the West Bank near the Qalandia refugee camp – wherever the more than 7 million stateless Palestinian refugees now live, very near their original villages and towns. Just out of sight, over the hill, across the border.

Moe Ali Nayel writes:

things will not be the same as before 15 May. Just like after Muhammad Bouazizi, things are not the same as before he shook the Arab world. The Arab people, us, the Arab youth, we are not going to let the status quocontinue, we are not going to be humiliated by our own people anymore. We are not going to let Palestine and the Palestinian people be humiliated and tortured every time they breathe.

We are freedom-loving people and we won’t live anymore on empty promises from our corrupt governments who use Palestine as a pretext to repress us while they enjoy stealing from our pockets. We won’t let them continue to make sure Israel is safe and sound, enjoying the beautiful land of Palestine, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in inhumane conditions in the camps.

In Portugal, on March 12 ” Upwards of 300,000 people took to the streets in Lisbon and other Portuguese cities on Saturday to protest job insecurity…”

In the UK, there have been cuts to education, health care and social spending after providing massive ‘bailouts’ to financial institutions that continue to pull in enormous profits. This has resulted in direct action, protests, and occupations of universities.

From We are the Third Force by S’bu Zikode of Abahlali baseMjondolo:

The community has realised that voting for parties has not brought any change to us.

[…]For us time has been a very good teacher. People have realised so many things. We have learnt from the past – we have suffered alone. That pain and suffering has taught us a lot. We have begun to realise that we are not supposed to be living under these conditions.

And here’s a little song courtesy of Nina Simone:

How to make the best of a minority government in the UK

The UK’s parliamentary election will take place on 6 May. So far, it looks likely that no single party will win a majority of the parliament’s 650 seats. A YouGov poll showed the following results: the Conservatives with 35%, Labour with 30%, and the Liberal Democrats with 24%. That leaves 11% undecided. These undecideds will be key in deciding the distribution of seats.

Guardian columnist, George Monbiot, has highlighted the importance of this situation in shaking up the political culture of that country. He has endorsed a movement that encourages people not vote strategically for a political party that they find might win but is not really their positive choice, simply a vote against another party they like less. The movement is called Hang ’em, and it lists a series of candidates it supports, from various political parties. Its aim is to take advantage of a potentially hung parliament. Hang ’em claims that these candidates have shown independent thinking and action and proven to be truly progressive even in the face of party pressure. They believe that, given the strong possibility of a minority government, if a good number of the Hang ’em endorsed candidates win, they might well be able to enact progressive legislation.

The implementation and result of this strategy will be very interesting to watch.

Also, it’s really a pleasure to read Monbiot’s gripping and informative article on the subject. Here’s a taste of what he has to say:

Cling onto nurse for fear of something worse. Though she has become crabbed and vicious, though she has usurped our parents, swiped our inheritance, binned our toys and sold the nursery, we must cower behind her skirts for fear of the beasts that prowl beyond. This, in essence, is what Polly Toynbee, Jonathan Freedland, Seumas Milne and Nick Cohen are now telling us to do(1,2,3,4).

By instructing us, over the years, to heed fears, not hopes, such voices have allowed Labour to abandon everything it once stood for, and hand us, trussed and oven-ready, to big business and the Daily Mail. We’ll be trapped like this forever, in New Labour’s Bermuda triangulation, unless we vote for what we believe in rather than just against what we don’t.

…I understand the hazards of voting for the smaller parties and allowing the right-hand glove puppet to replace the left-hand glove puppet. I know that the Tories are even worse than this government. But by voting for the candidates on the list compiled by the democracy campaign Hang ‘em(30), not all of whom are Liberal Democrats but all of whom are reformers with a good chance of taking or keeping seats, we can break this rotten system while remaining true to our beliefs.

Categories: Europe, Politics Tags: , ,

Canadian ambassador in Iran was a CIA spy

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment
Territorial Changes of Iran in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Territorial Changes of Iran in the 19th and 20th Centuries

The Globe and Mail reports on the role of a Canadian ambassador as a temporary CIA station chief in Iran, some 30 years ago.

The Globe writes:

Mr. Taylor, ambassador in Iran from 1977 to 1980, became “the de facto CIA station chief” in Tehran after the U.S. embassy was seized by students on Nov. 4, 1979, and 63 Americans, including the four-member Central Intelligence Agency contingent, were taken hostage.

…The request that he provide “aggressive intelligence” for the Americans was made personally by U.S. president Jimmy Carter to Mr. Clark, likely in a telephone conversation on Nov. 30, 1979, according to Prof. Wright.

Mr. Clark gave his approval, and informed his foreign minister, Flora MacDonald, who passed the request on to Mr. Taylor. He instantly agreed.

“I saw this [the hostage-taking] as something that wasn’t right,” Mr. Taylor said. “Anything in a modest way that I could contribute … looking for some sort of solution to this, I was quite prepared to do. I felt strongly about it. And I felt we could get away with it. They weren’t going to catch us.”

In the tumultuous period of the revolution, when various power factions were only establishing their place in the schema of future governance, the Iranian students who captured the US embassy and took hostages seem to have their own shadowy connections with one or more groups vying for control.

Anti-American sentiment though was genuine among many at the time, and its roots lie in the history of the 20th century.

Iran - Russian and British Zones (1907)

Iran - Russian and British Zones (1907)

In 1951 a highly popular politician, Mohammad Mosaddeq, managed to increasingly challenge the shah and at last put in place a democratic government which championed national sovereignty, therefore freedom from outside interference (which at the time meant British and Soviet action). In 1953 a US-led coup overthrew Mosaddeq and put the shah back in power. The coup was orchestrated and largely funded through covert operation which saw the CIA – as lead – work with the British Secret Service in what was dubbed operation Ajax.

The impact and trauma of this on Iran and Iranians can hardly be overstated. Following half a century of struggle for democracy and sovereignty, the country’s best attempts were denied via a US orchestrated coup. Prior to this, there was hope that the US could be a close ally: many people took seriously the US claims of opposing old style European imperialism and the right of nations to decide their own futures. So, to some extent the Mosaddeq’s ousting was seen as a betrayal from what was potentially a friend to independent government.

When the Shah took back his office, he, over time, concentrated greater power in his hands and reduced the constitution and parliament to near meaningless standards. He used his secret police, the SAVAK, to maintain control and was also dependent on the military and general security apparatus in his rule of the nation. These instruments were greatly aided through funding, training, and even at times handling by the US. So, not only had people lost a government that they could generally be happy with to be replaced by a monarch who, on record, would seek US guidance on at least some matters of domestic decision-making, they had to suffer a reign of regular terror funded and supported by the American government, which saw the Shah as its best friend in the Middle East.

This was the climate under which the 1978-79 Revolution took place. It was a period of chaos, of uncertainty with very active political factions from a wide band of secular and religious groups. The Shah fled the country for a second time (the first time during Mosaddeq’s government), and it was feared that further foreign interference would interfere with domestic politics. It is unfortunate that the US uses its embassies for covert activity, and so Iranian anxiety was felt toward the embassy of that time in the case that another coup was orchestrated from the embassy in Iran.

It’s important to know this history to realize what are some of the reasons for the Iranian students’ takeover of the US building. It did not come out of a vacuum. It was a response to an earlier incident in the 1950s that was regularly reinforced by SAVAK and other security repressions under the last Shah.

Below is a short documentary that reviews key points of the Mosaddeq government’s rise and fall under operation Ajax.

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